The carriage shook and rattled as we bumped along the windy road to London. I would have taken out my sketchbook and done a sketch in charcoals, but I feared that the drawing would smudge dreadfully with all the bouncing. Instead, I turned my attention to Maria, who was talking animatedly to Mama about what awaited all of us in London... or rather, what awaited her in London. She seemed to have this rather odd impression that Leland Smith loved her; had always loved her. As the days wore on, her fancies grew more and more ridiculous. Lee would be waiting for her in London; he would have missed her dreadfully; he would sweep her into his arms and proclaim his love for her.
"And then," Maria added. "I will execute a perfectly-timed faint, falling into his arms, to show him I am totally in control of my feminine delicacies."
I didn't quite know what she meant, and I don't think she did either, but I rather got the impression that Maria thought it sounded elegant to tack that onto the end of her long-winded speech.
But even Mama seemed to think it was time to curb Maria's enthusiasm a bit.
"Dear," she began. "Um... you have only met Leland once... and... I don't think he could have such strong emotions for you so quickly, seeing how he barely knows you."
"But Mama," Maria replied pertly. "It wouldn't take more than one meeting for a gentleman with knowledge to fall head over heals in love with me. They would see how I simply outshine all of the other girls, so they would use their heads and go after me."
It took all of my self-control not to laugh out loud at this remark of Maria's. Even so, a giggle escaped me, and Maria turned to look at me with scorn.
"It's just too bad you won't follow Mama's instructions, Evelyn," she replied cooly. "You could really make a lovely marriage. But instead, you spend all your time with your nose in a book, or sketching outdoors!" Maria laughed scornfully. "I guess you'll just die an old maid."
Mama interjected here.
"Maria!" she said. "You know you should not tease your sister so! I know that she is not as beautiful as you are, but that is no reason to behave so rudely."
Maria smirked at me. Mama had succeeded in subconsciously snubbing me in a way even she hadn't thought of. My sister couldn't be more pleased.
I decided to think of other things. I was greatly pleased to be going to London for one reason and one reason only: to visit with my cousins. Lively Liza, with her quick smile and ready laugh, was bound to be laughing about something when I came. And I was eager to discuss books with my quiet cousin, Lizzy. She and I had a great deal in common, and if it weren't for Liza and Bekah, we would spend all our time reading together.
Maria was now sleeping, leaning against a pillow on Mama's shoulder. Though Mama calls Maria her 'little beauty,' it is not quite true. Maria has curly, straw-colored hair. Her dark green eyes are thought to be alluring, but that is mostly due to the fact that she powders and paints them until they are no longer her own - just a mask she has chosen to paint on her face. In fact, she would be very beautiful if she just accepted her own, natural beauty. She looks a good deal like cousin Lizzy, but because she chooses to paint her face with makeup in order to outshine other girls whom she believes to be her "rivals," the contrast between the two is stark.
I suddenly realized something I had never thought of. Poor Maria. She was pampered and spoiled, allowed to paint herself up with powders and such, all because she was under the impression that she was not beautiful. It seemed a very sad place in which to be.
I immediately resolved to try to encourage my sister not to be so... forward. Perhaps, with improvement, Maria could become a beautiful young lady, one whom people enjoyed being around.
With my intentions resolved, I settled back against the carriage and closed my eyes. Slumber seemed to descend on me as the carriage lulled me to sleep...